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What the Living Do: Poems Paperback – April 17, 1999
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Her verse is almost unornamented though she manages some great gift of will and expression to convey the sharpest feeling in long, graceful lines that seem to breathe on the page.... Despite the fathomless pain inherent in these poems, Howe never succumbs to sentimentality or self-pity; her tone is passionate yet detached, her vocabulary and imagery evocative, appropriate, and devastating.” (Memphis Commercial Appeal)
“Howe is a truth-teller of the first order. Fearless in presenting unfiltered experiences, she interweaves her simple, economical language into long, subordinated sentences, loose, enjambed couplets that spill compellingly down the page with near-invisible artistry.” (Providence Sunday Journal)
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Top Customer Reviews
Marie Howe captures the gut feelings of living in her striking book of poetry. The pain of losing her brother to AIDs resonates through the later poems, while the earlier focus on the manic emotions of childhood. Even people uncomfortable with poetry will enjoy reading the universal memories she's translated so touchingly into the written word. This is not esoteric verse: it is clean, familiar, moving moments of time frozen under the glass of a copyright. Howe expresses just what the living do as a melody that swoops and soars. She also underscores her poetry with a deep harmony indicative of the void in life, a hole in one's heart that was once devoted to a loved one.
"But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass, say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless: I am living, I remember you."
The poems in the first section examine what we do as children to unveil our new world. We learn from our older siblings (The Boy); we learn to ask, seek, and sometimes demand help (Sixth Grade); we experience and experiment (Practicing); we liken our world to the fantastical (The Mother and In The Movies); we come to understand the value of being a confidant (Beth); we distinguish the difference between the public and the private (The Fruit Cellar); and we learn how to control our environment (The Game). These are seemingly personal anecdotes for the poet but which have universal meaning. Literal and figurative parallelism is applied in The Attic where the brother is, "building the imaginary building/on the drawing board...." And later, when his sister needs him emotionally, "he's building a world..." a safe haven for her. These moments are bittersweet, savory, palpable.
The second section confronts death and dying. When the speaker thinks her brother has died, the poet uses repetition to create tension and frustration: "and we couldn't wake him,/we couldn't wake him....Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great book of poetry. What the Living Do is a poem that has stayed with me since I first heard Howe read it at Dodge. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jodie Gundersen
My favorite poet right now is Marie Howe. Accessible, powerful, surprising. This is my favorite of her books so I purchased this one after reading three of them from the library.Published 8 months ago by Nan
Marie Howe is a wonderful poet, teacher and mentor. I took a class with her and appreciate her craft and insight. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Retail_Queen
Lovely book of graceful poems. The compelling imagery furnishes the ache of the back story of the author's loss of her older brother with the complexity confronting "the... Read morePublished 16 months ago by latecomer
Simple, beautiful, heartbreaking. She isn't writing about high moments, but peering deep into the nitty gritty of daily life. These are about how to live daily life. Read morePublished 19 months ago by hotheadpaisan